The days of neighbours Wanganui being able to regularly beat Taranaki are long gone.
Amateurs versus professionals - that is now the comparison.
In reality, that should be exactly how this afternoon's Ranfurly Shield challenge from Wanganui should be viewed - a chance for Taranaki to work on a few possible combinations ahead of the ITM Cup, which is fast approaching.
Complacency is not in the Taranaki psyche, however, especially with the Shield at stake.
Given that, don't expect Tenderlink Taranaki to show anything but a ruthless streak from the moment they run on to Yarrow Stadium this afternoon.
The week had gone well and there had been a big lift in intensity, Taranaki skipper Willie Rickards said after their captain's run yesterday afternoon.
Rickards said that lift in intensity had been driven by their quartet of Super Rugby players returning.
"It needs to be there because Wanganui won the [Heartland] competition last year, so you don't get that by sitting on your hands."
You don't, but it's hard to see Wanganui being able to compete for the entire match at a high enough level to lift the Shield for the first time in the union's history.
While they have some reasonable forwards, the Wanganui backline looks a mix of veterans close to retirement and guys who have not been able to crack it at a level higher.
There is a simple way to determine how the teams compare and that is to simply ask yourself just how many of their squad would make it into the Taranaki ranks. Answer: None, although a few did in the past.
Not that Taranaki do not have a bit to work on - naturally given the rep season is still in its infancy.
Too many dropped balls, a few too many turnovers and a general lack of fluency at times was masked by their domination of King Country in their 67-16 win last week.
Sure, there have been nine changes to the Taranaki side for today's match but a few survivors will still want to lift their game.
"When we reviewed the tapes from King Country, the breakdown was a bit of a concern but I think you get that with your first game and new combinations," Rickards said.
"What we have been hard on this week is being technically good there. We had a big contact session on Monday night where we really beat each other up and put a lot of work in that area."
Taranaki coach Colin Cooper felt things had still been "rusty" this week but was pleased his side had raised a few levels by yesterday's captain's run.
"I just want us to look after the ball better, treasure it when we've got it," he said. "I think we will with the adjustments we have made."
On the high number of changes from last week's hit-out, Cooper said there "was simply too much at stake" for him to ignore some of the players available to him.
"I thought we rewarded some good club form last week and sent a message that club form is important but there is going to be a step up with Wanganui being Heartland champions and we had to step up too and be a bit more ruthless in our selections."
Wanganui also held their captain's run at Yarrow Stadium yesterday afternoon with coach Jason Caskey happy with how his side had got through the week in preparation for their hardest game of the year.
"If they can't get excited about this, then there is something wrong," he said. "We haven't had much time together so we're not going to have the accuracy you would hope for, but as long as we are positive, that's the main thing."
While he had stressed to his players the need to hang in the game as long as possible, Caskey said he wanted them to be as positive as they could in search of points.
"Once you are three tries down against opposition like Taranaki, there's no coming back," he said. "It's not like Heartland rugby because we're not going to grind Taranaki out of the game. You just have to hang in there and not leak easy points."
Taranaki have just one injury concern, with Chris Walker still not 100 per cent recovered from an ankle injury. A decision on whether he takes his place on the bench will be made this morning.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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